After 17th straight playoff appearance, Pine-Richland girls tennis looks forward to next season

Sunday, October 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM

With a young team this fall, Pine-Richland girls tennis coach Jirakorn “Dang” Siraprasert wasn’t sure how the season would go.

In the end, the Rams ended up in familiar territory by making the WPIAL team tennis playoffs for the 17th consecutive season.

The Rams fell 5-0 to Fox Chapel in the first round, but the final score didn’t indicate how close some of the matches were.

“Our team played so well,” Siraprasert said. “Lilly (Hinds) had a tough first singles match against Carissa Shepherd and lost 6-0, 6-0, but Shepherd is really good and well trained to play in tournaments. The rest of the matches went well. (Rachel Smith) did really well in second singles, and (Haley Katzfrey) went to a third set and we almost won that. The same thing happened in first doubles. (Kianna Strahotin and Kendall Kirkland) went to three sets. Second doubles (Isabella Calabrese and Samy Ravichandran) played well too. Everyone did a good job. They were just inexperienced and got nervous and excited.”

Pine-Richland finished 7-8 overall and placed third in Section 2-3A behind North Allegheny and Moon.

Of all the players that participated in the playoff match, only Katzfrey and Calabrese will graduate, giving Pine-Richland five returning starters.

One of the biggest developments was Hinds moving from the 15th player on Siraprasert’s depth chart at the end of last season to the No. 1 singles player. Getting to go up against each team’s top player all season should be beneficial for her going into her senior year.

“She spent the whole summer working on her game,” Siraprasert said. “Her mother also plays tennis and they practice together a lot. She has very good movement. She moves so fast and that’s her advantage. It’s very natural. When she gets a little bit more experience she is going to be very good.”

Smith, a sophomore who played second singles all season, also will return, along with fellow sophomores Strahotin and Ravichandran.

Kirkland, a freshman, made strides in her game as well.

Pine-Richland does a round robin tournament in the middle of the season to determine the top seven players, and Kirkland moved from seventh to fifth.

“They all really work hard during the season,” Siraprasert said of her returning players. “If they can practice some more during the summer it will be good for them and me.”

In postseason meetings, Siraprasert asked her players what they can improve upon for next year; one suggestion was for her to be tougher on them when they lose. That’s not Siraprasert’s style. She wants to make tennis a fun activity, and it’s a method that’s led to success.

“I’ll never scold the kids,” Siraprasert said. “We want them to enjoy tennis after being in the classroom all day. I always focus on the process more than the result. If they can be a little bit better every time they come to the court, they will be better at the end of the season. That’s my philosophy and that’s my goal.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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